The area of disturbed weather known as Invest 92 has drifted over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and into the southwestern Gulf off Mexico. The National Hurricane Center is still giving it a 50% chance of getting organized enough to be called a tropical cyclone. If it becomes a tropical storm it will be named “Fernand”.
Hurricane expert and Weather Underground founder Dr. Jeff Masters says in his Friday morning blog entry that while Invest 92 is showing a well-developed surface circulation there are no heavy thunderstorms near the center and that for now conditions are mixed as far any further strengthening is concerned. “An upper-level low pressure system over the Gulf of Mexico is pumping dry air into 92L, slowing development. Wind shear is a moderate 10 - 20 knots over the the wave, which should allow slow development today.” As for where the potential storm will go and how strong it will get, Masters says you can take your pick between two equally reasonable possibilities.
“A trough of low pressure over the northern Gulf of Mexico will dip down by Sunday over the Central Gulf of Mexico, increasing the wind shear to a high 20 - 30 knots just to the north of 92L. This trough may also be able to pull the storm northwestwards to a landfall in Texas on Monday or Tuesday, as the 00Z Friday runs of UKMET and NAVGEM model predict. If 92L does follow this more northwesterly path, intensification into a strong tropical storm would be difficult, due to the high wind shear. An alternate scenario is presented by our two top-performing models, the European and GFS. They predict that 92L will take a nearly due west track, resulting in a landfall south of Tampico, Mexico on Monday. The storm would have more of an opportunity to strengthen in this scenario, since wind shear would be lower.”
All that amounts to good news for the eastern Gulf of Mexico coastline, including Florida and Tampa Bay. However, storms that develop in the Gulf can be extremely difficult when it comes to forecasting courses and intensity. At the moment, according to the latest computer model runs the biggest threats from Invest 92 are to the areas along the Texas/Louisiana border or to the parts of Mexico south of Tampico.
Looking out into the far eastern Atlantic, forecasters have downgraded Erin to a tropical depression and Dr. Masters says due to a combination of lukewarm water and dry Saharan air Erin could be dead by Sunday.